The thought of constructing a home photo studio setup with lights can seem a scary prospect. But you can relax: the portrait lighting equipment you need has become much cheaper and easier to use – and it won’t take over your home.
The beauty of a home photo studio setup, especially for portraits, is that it gives you the ability to control your light source – you can decide which studio accessories you use, and where you place them.
And it’s entirely up to you what kit you buy and how much you spend. You can get away with using a large polystyrene board as a reflector, or fork out for an almost life-size softbox. The choice is yours.
Presuming you’re eager to save money, basic ‘two head’ home photo studio starter kits, such as those made by Interfit, can be picked up for as little as £250 and are perfect for getting started with studio portraits.
These budget kits even come with added goodies like a silver umbrella for bouncing light or softbox for diffusing it – a perfect package for headshots, full-length shots and group portraits.
In this tutorial we’ll show you some of the best camera settings, lighting arrangements and accessories you need to get perfect portraits at home.
Get the right exposure
Newcomers to home photo studio photography often worry about how to get a correct exposure from a flash source. The tried-and-tested method for taking a reading is to use a handheld light meter (find out how to use a hand-held light meter for perfect exposure), but you don’t have to resort to this rather old school solution.
The histogram (learn how to read a histogram) that you can call up on your camera’s LCD screen is ideal for checking and altering your exposure. Just make sure that the tonal distribution is balanced throughout the graph.
In the infographic below we’ve illustrated three different exposures – correct, over- and under-exposure – and reproduced their histograms to give you a better idea of what to look for in your own portrait photography.
Opening or closing the aperture is the best way of solving exposure issues (download our photography cheat sheet on when to use wide or small apertures), or try increasing or decreasing the power output of your flash unit to compensate for under or over-exposure.
Add drama with your lighting
Most entry-level studio kits come with a reflective umbrella. This is a very useful accessory, and you’ll often see two placed either side of the model for a soft, even and flattering coverage of light.
For the shot above, however, we opted for a hard-lit, punchy effect by placing the umbrella high and to the left of the camera.
Facing it down towards the side of our model’s face meant that only one side received direct exposure to the light. We made the other side even darker by placing a black polystyrene board to the model’s right.
In the infographic below – part of our ongoing photography cheat sheet series – we’ve illustrated a few other sample way sto light your home photo studio setup to achieve different moods and effects in your portraits.
PAGE 1: Get the right exposure; Create dramatic lighting effects
PAGE 2: The perfect camera set-up; Using flash sync; Essential accessories
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